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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: Japan Faces Record Coronavirus Cases

AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko
A station passageway is crowded with commuters wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus during a rush hour in Tokyo Friday, Nov. 20, 2020.

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise around the world. And one of many locations hit by record numbers this week is Japan.

Thursday saw a record number of new coronavirus cases in Tokyo for the second day in a row — topping 500 for the first time.

New records were also set in Osaka and the northern island of Hokkaido.

Nationwide, new cases also hit a record — nearly 2,400. That’s still low by most international comparisons, but just a day earlier they topped 2,000 for the first time.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga suggested “quiet gatherings with masks” for those going out to dinner — with a maximum of four people in a group, and faces covered during conversation at the table.

But those are only suggestions — nothing binding.

Medical authorities say dropping temperatures are a factor in the increased cases — as more people spend longer stretches of time inside.

The head of the Japan Medical Association also raised the idea that another contributing factor could be a government program providing subsidies to encourage domestic travel. Toshio Nakagawa said it may not be responsible for the spike in cases, but added, “there is no mistaking that it acted as a catalyst.”

The Chief Cabinet Secretary said there are no changes planned for that program, because it is helping to support local economies.

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